StatTiger: Analyzing AU vs. Gamecock Matchup

Stuart Carter cranked up his computer, crunched the numbers and picks a winner in the South Carolina vs. Auburn game and why it should happen that way.

Auburn 3-0/1-0 SEC vs. South Carolina 3-0/1-0 SEC

Series record: 6-1-1 in favor of Auburn 2010 National Rankings: Auburn/South Carolina:

Rush Offense: 12th/Rush Offense: 33rd

Pass Offense: 78th/Pass Offense: 84th

Total Offense: 21st/Total Offense: 57th

Score Offense: 42nd/Score Offense: 42nd

Rush Defense: 40th/Rush Defense: 6th

Pass Defense: 77th/Pass Defense: 101st

Total Defense: 61st/Total Defense: 50th

Score Defense: 58th/Score Defense: 9th

About South Carolina...

Coach Steve Spurrier has assembled perhaps his best squad since arriving at South Carolina and the Gamecocks are currently ranked No. 12 in the nation with a 3-0 record. This is Spurrier's sixth season with the Gamecocks and he has compiled a 38-28 record in Columbia.

This is the second time Spurrier and the Gamecocks have started the season 3-0, but they have never advanced to 4-0 under the Ol' Ball Coach. The last time South Carolina started a season 4-0 was in 2001 when the Gamecocks finished with a 9-3 record. With Georgia already dispatched, Coach Spurrier now has the Gamecocks in an early position to compete for the SEC East Division title.

Stephen Garcia is the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks.

On offense South Carolina returns its starting quarterback, top three rushers and three of the four top receivers when the 2009 team. When you think of Spurrier the first offensive position that comes to mind is quarterback. Spurrier has been rotating two quarterbacks in 2010. Stephen Garcia is the starter, but Conner Shaw has seen action in two of the games this season, giving the Gamecocks a more athletic quarterback when he's on the field.

Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore is off to a good start with 333 yards rushing at 4.8 yards per carry. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has hauled in 19 catches for 306 yards and is the primary weapon in a terrific receiving corps. Of South Carolina's 27 impact plays on offense, 16 have coming via the passing game, which is now balanced with a solid running attack in 2010.

Devin Taylor (defensive end) and Travian Robertson (defensive tackle) lead the team with two sacks each for a defense that is currently ranked No. 6 in the nation in sacks with 11 through three games.

South Carolina is allowing under 60 yards rushing per game, which ranks sixth nationally. Though Lorenzo Ward currently holds the title of defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson has helped construct a solid Gamecock defense over the past two years and the Gamecocks are currently No. 9 in scoring defense. Johnson is a veteran defensive coordinator with a strong reputation of building sound defenses.

Inside the Numbers...

•Auburn currently holds a 6-1-1 record over the Gamecocks with South Carolina defeating the Tigers in 1933. The two schools have met in SEC games four times with Auburn winning each of those contests.

•South Carolina has generated 27 impact plays (15-yards or more) on offense while allowing 10 on defense. Auburn's offense has 33 impact plays while allowing 16 on defense.

•South Carolina is currently 19-22 in SEC play under Steve Spurrier with a road record of 8-12 against conference opponents.

•The Gamecocks are 4-12 against SEC opponents on the road that finished the season with a winning record, which includes a current 0-5 losing streak against "quality" SEC opponents.

•Garcia currently has a road record of 1-4 against conference opponents, compiling a career passer rating of 104.1 in those five games. To his credit, Garcia has thrown only four picks from 176 pass attempts on the road.

•South Carolina under Spurrier is 7-16 in conference play when held to under 100 yards rushing and 5-11 when the Gamecocks allow more than 150 yards rushing.

•In the 41 SEC games under Spurrier the Gamecocks have averaged 31 rushes and 34 passes per game. The 52 rushes the Gamecocks had against Georgia two weeks ago were the most during the Spurrier era.

•South Carolina is 9-2 in conference play when the opponent is held to under 300 yards in total offense.

•The Gamecocks are 10-4 in conference play under Spurrier, when his offense generates three touchdowns or more.

Why Auburn should win...

•Auburn is 19-5-1 in its last 25 home conference openers.

•Auburn currently has the nation's most efficient pass offense and South Carolina is 46th in pass efficiency defense. This could be Cameron Newton's first opportunity for a signature passing game.

Cameron Newton (left) celebrates a touchdown pass to No. 80 (Emory Blake) in Auburn's SEC victory at Mississippi State.

•Auburn is 21st nationally in total offense and South Carolina is 50th in total defense.

•Auburn's defense is 29th nationally in sacks and South Carolina is 97th in sacks allowed. With South Carolina rebuilding its offensive line this could be a game the Auburn defensive front has a major impact.

•Auburn is No. 11 in the nation in tackles for loss and the South Carolina offense is 70th in tackles for loss allowed. Look for Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley to have another solid game.

Why South Carolina should win...

•South Carolina is ranked No. 6 nationally in run defense and Auburn has struggled establishing its running backs. Look for the Gamecocks to force Newton to win this game.

•Auburn's offense under Gus Malzahn is reliant on impact plays and South Carolina's defense has surrendered only 10 plays of 15-yards or more through three games. If the Tigers struggle in obtaining explosive plays, this could be a low scoring affair.

•South Carolina is 50th in turnover-margin and Auburn is 105th. The Tigers have lost the turnover-battle in two of their three games.

•South Carolina has the seventh highest 3rd down conversion rate on offense and the Auburn defense is 36th nationally in 3rd down defense. Spurrier will scheme to milk the clock and keep Auburn's big-play offense off the field and out of rhythm.

•South Carolina is tied for first in red zone offense and Auburn's defense is 89th nationally in red zone defense.

Final Word...

Auburn's back-to-back close ball games could be a bad omen or a blessing for the future of this team. During the 2001 season, Auburn was 6-1 in games decided by seven-points or less. The record itself was impressive, but the Tigers were 1-4 in their remaining games. This basically meant Auburn struggled to win games in 2001 and under worse circumstances were normally blown out in their losses.

During the 2006 season Auburn was 5-0 in games decided by seven points or less and was 6-2 in the remaining games. This was a sign of a well-coached team, which made the most of its opportunities.

What kind of team will the 2010 Tigers end up being? Though there are several indicators this team has improved from 2009, it certainly doesn't mean the Tigers are ready to challenge for the SEC West title.

The primary issue on offense has been the inconsistent performance of the line followed by mental mistakes. The talent is there, which was obvious in the third period of the Clemson game when the Tigers produced 258 yards of total offense and 21 points in one quarter. Unfortunately for the Tigers the offense struggled in the other three periods, needing a missed field goal attempt in overtime to capture their third win of the season.

It's this type of inconsistency that can make a game unnecessarily close and turn what should be a legitimately close game into a blowout loss. Talent-wise Auburn's starting 22 matches up with just about everyone in the conference, but their execution and consistency needs to improve.

After the Mississippi State game it appeared the defense made a major step towards becoming solid again, but the Tigers took three steps backwards against Clemson. Giving up more than 400 yards and 24 points are not the attributes of a good defense and neither is allowing eight impact plays against Clemson after giving up a total of eight in the first two games.

The interior line and linebackers have been the most consistent aspect of the defense, but the ends are still taking poor angles and losing their responsibilities. The same can be said about a secondary that has not shaken off the rust. I expect Spurrier to scheme to slow the game and to control the clock. Even though Auburn has never lost to the Gamecocks since they joined the Southeastern Conference in 1992, the Tigers have struggled with some of the South Carolina teams that are less talented than this year's squad.

On offense Auburn must become more consistent, which means better execution across the board. Newton has proven to be catalyst for the offense, but he must prove he can hit the short passes to sustain drives and not just the home runs. Malzahn could make this task easier by throwing more than 18 percent of the time on first down.

Sooner or later Malzahn must turn the offense over to Newton and a restrictive offensive approach could spell trouble against a physical South Carolina defense.

On defense Auburn must tackle well because Spurrier will attempt to take advantage of the Tiger secondary with his big and physical receivers. Look for a high number of short passes supported by an inside running game with Lattimore. The Gamecocks will also run reverses and end-around plays to take advantage of an over-pursuing Auburn defense.

This will be a very intense and physical game, which means special teams performance will be magnified. Until the Tigers can prove they can limit their own mistakes all their remaining conference games will be a major challenge. For the third week in a row Auburn will face a good team which had extra time to prepare for the Tigers. If you don't believe this is an advantage, just look back to the 2009 Auburn team and what the extra week to prep for Alabama meant. Auburn 23, South Carolina 20

Around the SEC...

Florida over Kentucky by 10

LSU over West Virginia by 8

Ole Miss over Fresno State by 7

Tennessee over UAB by 13

Georgia over Miss State by 7

Alabama over Arkansas by 9



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